Posts Tagged ‘Beginners’

The tradition of sad men singing beautifully about their pain runs deep through the folk genre as well as popular music as a whole. But there’s something especially tender about the music of artists like Elliott Smith, Conor Oberst, Sufjan Stevens and Jason Molina, all self-deprecating masters of the English language who, through their own perpetual battles with depression and heartbreak and life in general, each taught (or are still teaching) us something new about the preciousness of the human condition.

Joining that lineage of great singer/songwriters is L.A.-based musician Christian Lee Hutson, who recently released his new album “Beginners” after a year or so of hype building. Hutson worked closely with Phoebe Bridgers, who produced the record, and he also co-wrote a song on Bridgers’ and Oberst’s Better Oblivion Community Center album from last year, plus opened/played guitar for them on that tour.

Hutson sounds so much like Smith you have to wonder if it’s cosplay—like Smith, his voice is airy and strained, yet so soft, and his lyrics possess a similar noir, but funny mood—but he also sings like Bridgers. While the similarities to both his contemporaries and those who came before him are impossible to ignore, there are few musicians who could pull off singing about an aspiring building inspector and make it so equally funny and sweet—but Hutson possesses a rare balance of critical wit and soul.

On album standout “Lose this Number,” he slips in anecdotal blips (“Bobby helped me track you down / ‘cause I just saw your name in the paper / You said, ’Of course that reminded you of me / Don’t you know that’s how a name works?’”) alongside vague, but vivid, imagery that will spark all one’s senses at once (“Where the whole time I’ve just been asleep here / Twenty years younger / Smell of sugar and seaweed / Indian summer.”)

Folk singer-songwriter and Phoebe Bridgers super friend Christian Lee Hutson is about to release his new LP “Beginners”. “I went with “Beginners” as the title because that’s where I feel like I am in my life — like I’m still just learning and trying to figure out how to navigate the world,” Hutson says. He co-wrote several songs for Bridgers’ boygenius and Better Oblivion Community Center records, and in return, she recorded and produced the entirety of his album at LA’s Sound City Studios.

Christian Lee Hutson shared another Beginners track “Get The Old Band Back Together”, which arrives with a video starring album producer Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst.

We’ve already heard a few songs from the upcoming Beginners “Northsiders,” “Lose This Number,” “Talk.” And now, Hutson has shared one last advance single before the record’s release later this month. “Get The Old Band Back Together,” which features Conor Oberst on Harmonica, Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy on electric guitar, Sharon Silva on harmonies, Anna Butterss on bass, and Marshall Vore on drums, is a warm, comfortably melodic folk-rocker.

“Get The Old Band Back Together” by Christian Lee Hutson from the album ‘Beginners,’

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“A few years ago I ran into the drummer of a still-together band from my high school, who had just been kicked out,” Hutson explains. “When he told the singer he’d been considering becoming a building inspector, the guy gave him an ultimatum: the band or inspecting buildings. He chose to inspect buildings, a decision that may have been impacted by the fact that the band never played a show or recorded a song. Still, he was pretty bummed about it, and that gave me the idea for this song.

“I had been wanting to make something with my director friend Michael Tyrone Delaney, who’d had this idea to splice up old talent show footage with footage of me and some friends showcasing some of our own ‘talents,’” he continues. “My partner, Sharon Silva, showcases her Irish dancing. My childhood hero, Conor Oberst, takes an aggressive, impromptu harmonica solo in the video (and on the recording). My adulthood hero and best friend, Phoebe Bridgers, plays a master of puppets. We shot it in April so everyone had to self tape. Every single he’s released has been stellar. I’ve been raving about “Northsiders” and “Lose This Number” for months now. This guy is the real thing and I can’t wait for the record.

Bridgers and Huston are good friends and frequent collaborators. He co-wrote songs for her Better Oblivion Community Center project with Conor Oberst, and her boygenius project with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus.

On how he picked the LP title, Hutson explains, “I went with Beginners as the title because that’s where I feel like I am in my life – like I’m still just learning and trying to figure out how to navigate the world.”

“Talk” by Christian Lee Hutson from the album ‘Beginners,’ available May 29th

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On his ANTI- Records debut “Beginners”, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Christian Lee Hutson embeds every lyric with his most intimate self-dialogue, sharing painful confessions and private jokes, imagined conversations and elaborate daydreams. The album—produced by his friend and collaborator Phoebe Bridgers—spotlights a nuanced songcraft and understated candor that all but erases the distance between feeling and expression. Throughout this collection of songs, Hutson ultimately speaks an illuminating truth about regret and forgiveness and the endless confusion in growing up.

“I went with Beginners as the title because that’s where I feel like I am in my life—like I’m still just learning and trying to figure out how to navigate the world,” Hutson notes.

Hutson and Bridgers recorded Beginners at L.A.’s legendary Sound City Studios, but purposely preserved the homespun quality of his cell-phone-recorded demos. “With almost all the songs, we started with my voice memos and then figured out what to add—if anything—as opposed to going in with some grand idea of what it should sound like,” Hutson recalls. “Phoebe and I have the same musical shorthand, which made it really easy to share and add to each other’s ideas.” Beginners mines its subtle textures from Hutson’s warm vocals and graceful guitar work, and also unfolds flashes of sonic brilliance achieved with the help of its guest musicians—including Bridgers herself, as well as Nathaniel Walcott of Bright Eyes (who created all the string arrangements for the album, in addition to playing trumpet).

On Beginners’ softly heartbreaking lead single “Lose This Number,” Hutson reveals one of his greatest strengths as a songwriter: a rare ability to infuse his lyrics with myriad idiosyncratic detail, yet leave the narrative slippery enough for the listener to fill in their own meaning. Throughout the song—inspired by a loved one’s ordeal in what Hutson refers to as “knowing you really fucked up and there’s no way to go back”—his storytelling is threaded with incisive turns of phrase (e.g., “It’s like I was born on the back of a bullet/With your name written on it”).

An album steeped in impossibly vivid memory, Beginners moves between tender nostalgia and self-effacing humor on “Northsiders”—a song about “all the posturing you do in high school because you don’t know who you are yet,” according to Hutson (sample lyric: “Morrissey apologists/Amateur psychologists/Serial monogamists/We went to different colleges”). His often-bemused reflection on growing up in L.A. turns to “this very common experience of kids I knew getting sent to rehab at a really young age” on “Seven Lakes.” And on “Get The Old Band Back Together,” Beginners slips into a strangely joyful mood as the track slowly warps into an epic sing-along sending up Hutson’s own teenage hubris.

The Santa Monica-native took up guitar at age 12 and soon started self-recording on a four-track in his bedroom, largely inspired by the DIY sensibilities of artists like Elliott Smith. Hutson’s universe has expanded considerably since then, having co-written a song on the 2018 debut EP from boygenius and two on the 2019 debut LP from Better Oblivion Community Center (with whom Hutson also toured as both a guitarist and support act). Last year, he toured supporting artists including Julia Jacklin and Okkervil River as well.

With the release of Beginners, Hutson hopes his audience might find solace in his deliberate emotional transparency. “I want people to feel like it’s okay: we’re all here fucking up all the time; we’re all just learning and living, and it’s going to be all right,” Hutson says. “I don’t even know if I fully believe that, but it’s the voice I always wished I had in my life.”

Christian Lee Hutson is the musician the Reply All guys hired to record that insanely catchy song they were trying to discover on this month’s viral episode. His own new song, “Talk,” owes less influence to U2 and Barenaked Ladies but is a delicate, Phoebe Bridgers-produced reflection on a man’s life with a family in both the past and future.

“Talk” by Christian Lee Hutson from the album ‘Beginners,’ available May 29th

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